Wedding vows come in all shapes, sizes and levels of cheese. I have one book on my shelf with 50 different options of scripts for a couple to use when they get married. Regardless of what you or your spouse said on that fateful, beautiful day, we all recognize the traditional vows, which go something like this: “I, Chuck, take you, Marge, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do us part.”
In all our excitement to find the right dress, the right unity candle, the right rings, the right honeymoon and the right flower girl, sometimes we forget to stop and think about one pretty important question.
[WHAT IS A VOW ANYWAY?] In the Bible, vows were made for all sorts of reasons. They were promises—motivated by a love for God or another person—to perform a certain way or present gifts to God, including promises to abstain from certain things in life.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ … Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God.”
Clearly, making a vow is something sacred. It is a true commitment to God and to others. Vows are not something to take lightly. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to vows only to condemn the abuse of them.
[A VOW IS A SCARY THING] I send out a newsletter for young married and engaged couples called FUSION. After sending the first issue, I went for what I thought was a normal drive to the store. Halfway to Giant Eagle for those incredible “Hint of Lime” Tostitos, I started to shudder at a vow I had made. When I wrote the sub-headline for the newsletter, something snappy like, “A weekly E-zine (blah blah blah),” had I just promised to crank something meaningful out every single week from here to eternity? Had I just tied myself down to having to actually write something funny, intelligent and practical every week?
I suppose I did give my word, but I didn’t make a vow. A vow is something formal. Something public. Something that God and others should hold you and me accountable to. Quite simply, a vow is there because we need it. If we have made a big-deal, life-altering, earth-shattering promise before God and hundreds of people, maybe it’s because we need something to keep us headed in the right direction.
[MORE THAN A FEELING] There is a place for feelings. Our wedding day really was a blissful buffet of excitement, joy, fireworks and great feelings all the way around. Weddings should be that way. But sooner or later (usually sooner), we realize that the feelings don’t stay that high.
They can’t stay that high. They come and go. Love is, by definition, more than a feeling. It is the commitment to seeking another person’s good above your own. Will marriage always “feel great”? Will you always “feel like” showing love, forgiving, forgetting, grunting it out, listening, waiting, learning, trying again …?
No, we don’t always feel like it. And that’s what the vow is for.
[VOW TO LOVE] Wedding vows are life-long, covenant promises to love another person for the rest of your life. A vow is a decision to put feelings, disappointments, self-needs, preferences and personal hopes as secondary to the commitment of loving and honoring your spouse.
A vow is a commitment to something (marriage) and someone (God, spouse) greater than yourself. Just for kicks, maybe you and your spouse should say your marriage vows out loud, again, tonight. Cliché or not, vows are the most powerful words you have ever said.
[GOD’S VOWS IN SCRIPTURE:]